15 Questions With Emily R. Cross '08

In 2006, Emily R. Cross ’08 was named Crimson Female Athlete of the Year—now she’s taking time off to train

In 2006, Emily R. Cross ’08 was named Crimson Female Athlete of the Year—now she’s taking time off to train for the 2008 Olympics. Making this type of jump can really be unnerving, but Emily seems to have transitioned rather smoothly. FM sits down with Emily to try and find out how.


Last year at the Junior Olympics, you beat out Adrienne Nott from Notre Dame in the final match. In The Observer, she is quoted as saying, “‘Wow, why is Emily Cross so good?’” What do you have to say about her?

EC: Out of a lot of the people in the junior circuit, she’s definitely one of the people that give me the most trouble. I’m glad it went well for me but she definitely gave me a run for my money.


Fencing isn’t exactly soccer or softball. Why’d you decide to pick up a foil?

EC: A lot of things I guess. My dad fenced in college and when my brother and I were little he thought that it would be a good after-school activity for us to try. It started off as a father-daughter activity and as time went on I got more and more serious about it and now here I am.


You’re a two time Junior World Champion, last year’s Crimson Female Athlete of the Year, and pretty much an all-around fencing badass. If you could be the Junior World Champion in something else, what would it be?

EC: Yeah, I don’t know actually. I guess tennis and also skiing. [They’re the] two sports I’ve enjoyed besides fencing. I guess if I wasn’t fencing I’d be skiing.


When you decided that you were going to take time off from Harvard to train for the 2008 Olympics, how did your teammates react?

EC: They were all really supportive. I couldn’t have asked for more from them. It was a really difficult decision—the whole experience of fencing at Harvard has meant a lot to me. They were all, “good-luck, go for it!”


You plan to come back in the fall of 2008. What do you think it will be like to be back at Harvard after a year and a half off?

EC: Obviously I think this whole experience is going to change me a lot. It’s going to be difficult given that most of my friends will have graduated by then. But I hope to come back with a new enthusiasm for schoolwork, which has kind of lapsed recently.


Do you have a lot of free time when you’re not training? What do you do when you’re not practicing?

EC: Yeah, I have a certain amount of free time, when I’m not practicing. I work out in the morning. My brother’s at home. He’s recently been diagnosed with leukemia. I hang out with him when I’m not at the gym.


I’ve been told that you’re a huge Arrested Development fan. What have you been watching regularly since the show ended last year?

EC: Well it’s been hard really to commit to another show. I just got really into The Office, both the English and the America version. I like House a lot...I also really like watching Top Chef.


Okay. You knew it was coming: who’s your favorite Musketeer?

EC: Oh man, I can’t say I’m really familiar enough with the Musketeers to pick. I know their names...I know D’Artagnan is the young one. So I guess D’Artagnan.


I’ve heard that you make some pretty intimidating noises when you compete. Have you ever tried scaring anyone by jumping out from behind a bush and screaming the same way?

EC: No I can’t say I ever have. It’s more that the screaming is a release of tension more than an intimidation factor. You don’t actually scream during the actual action—you don’t scream when you’re coming at them. You’re not supposed to make any noise.


If you could take a stab at anyone, and I mean literally, whom would you fence?

EC: The person I would want to fence is actually a fencer so I guess this isn’t the most imaginative answer. Giovanna Trillini. I love fencing her. Any opportunity to fence her would just be great.


Rumor also has it that you’re a lightweight outside the rink when it comes to drinking. Do you have any secrets for preventing the Asian glow?

EC: I guess the two things I’ve heard of are Pepcid AC and Claritin. I didn’t know these rumors were so widespread. I don’t know anyone who has it worse than me so I hope for other people it’s more of a help.


So I’ve always wondered: how realistic are those sword fights between Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean?

EC: In terms of modern day fencing it’s not very realistic at all. Especially the catapulting people with carts and stuff. I mean it might have been realistic like the sword fighting back in the day, but it’s not how we do it today.


When’s your next major competition?

EC: I actually leave on Wednesday for a world cup in Austria. I’m going to be in Europe for almost seven weeks starting next week.


How do you pump yourself up before a big match?

EC: Well I guess I don’t really do much for a big match. For me the big challenge is not being too nervous. When I first started fencing, I was too nervous to eat breakfast or really talk to anyone. Now my main focus is to breathe and keep my breakfast down.


What Olympic athlete would you be most excited to meet in Beijing? I vote for Apollo Anton Ono, even though he’s technically a winter Olympian.

EC: Yeah, I’m a really sad about that myself. I’d say probably Michael Phelps. I’ve actually heard of him, and I don’t really know a lot of Olympic athletes. Other than that, probably one of the track athletes—they’re all really amazing.